After half a dozen adventures published abroad, Venice’s sorely missed Commissario Guido Brunetti (Acqua Alta, 1996, etc.) returns to American bookshops in the case of the hanged cadet.
If Ernesto Moro doesn’t seem to have been close to either any of his fellow cadets at the San Martino Military Academy or indeed to his own family, that’s because neither group is exactly nurturing. San Martino is governed by a code of decorum so strict that when Brunetti engages young Giuliano Ruffo in a conversation about music without his parents’ consent, his superiors call him to account. And the Moro family seems equally remote from each other. Dottor Fernando Moro, formerly an incorruptible Member of Parliament, separated from his wife Federica, who was shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident, around the same time he resigned his government post, and neither parent is able to account for their daughter Valentina. As Brunetti, haunted by questions Ernesto’s apparent (and eagerly accepted) suicide raises for his own luckier family, proceeds in his leisurely investigations, a pattern of systematic wrongdoing slowly emerges—a pattern more interesting than any of the characters who seem stifled by the miasmal corruption.
A powerful indictment of an Italian society in which “scandal had the same shelf life as fresh fish: by the third day, both were worthless; one because it had begun to stink, the other because it no longer did.”